Author Pat Kirkham discusses the opening titles for Nine Hours to Rama, from her authoritative book Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design.
The ability to magically heighten realism and transform the ordinary into the extraordinary is evident in the titles for this film about the nine hours leading up to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The ticking of an old-fashioned pocket watch symbolizes the final hours, minutes and seconds of this great man's life.
“The entire title consisted of a series of close-up images of a clock face and its interior. By concentrating on these images, two things happen... we establish the intensity of the passage of each moment of time, but also the contradictory nature of time, the inexorability of the passage of each moment — especially if one knows that a momentous killing will soon occur — and yet so elastic that a single moment can feel like an eternity.
First, the camera confronts the watch's filigreed face, which is the color of a blood orange. Next, it follows the tip of the minute hand leaping clockwise, as it must, and propelled by the throbbing music of an Indian raga. Then we plunge inside the watch, which now seems like a giant factory, or a universe, where the mainspring drives the wheels of the escapement at a wild pace. Then we're quickly out again and back to the face, where the second hand swings toward sixty, and inside once more, where the escapement has taken on a hurtling life of its own. Finally, fatefully, our view dissolves from watch wheels to the wheels of a locomotive, spinning us headlong into the picture.”
Pat Kirkham is Professor in the History of Design, Decorative Arts and Culture at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design & Culture, New York. She has written and edited a number of books, including Charles and Ray Eames (1998) and Women Designers in the USA 1900–2000 (2001).
©2011 Laurence King Publishing Ltd. Used with permission.
Titles Designed by: Saul Bass, Elaine Bass
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